Sunday, October 31, 2004

How Not To Have A Weekend

Become a university student, take subjects that have exams close together, particularly on Saturday mornings.

Getting up before 9am on a Saturday should be a crime. No two ways about it. However, I did yesturday. Started the day off well - cut myself shaving (just below my nose, so it looked like I had been in a early morning bar fight... and didn't stop bleeding until about 3pm).

The exam was at 9:30 - studyed hard out, up until 10pm the night before. I was pumped. Two questions - no choices etc.

First question:
"Argue either for or against the creation of Whenuapai Air Base as Auckland’s second commercial airport. Among the issues you should address are those concerning alternative land uses, infrastructure concerns, aviation services (both airside, and groundside), possible target airlines and destinations, economic impacts, and its position within the district plan."
No worries - this is pretty close to the topic of my thesis. Wrote in favour of the Airport, the monoploy that Auckland International Airport at Mangere has, and the inability for any new entrants into the market to get a foot hold, due to AIA being Air New Zealand's hub airport (low cost airlines work on a point-to-point basis, rather than a hub - this pretty much throws any airport which is a hub out of cilter)

Second question:
"Using the provided urban form illustration (circle size represents activity/population size, with the largest circle being the CBD and the long lines are trunk and the shorter lines are feeder lines), construct an urban transportation system. Among the issues you should address are those concerning various modes, routes, various centres, land uses, and what it would take in terms of public and government support to implement your system."
Once again, no worries. A fully intergrated Transit Oriented Development system would be the best answer (similar to that in Munich or Ottawa), and car-less CBD's (similar to the tarrif you have to pay to take your car into downtown London). In contrast to the first question, where I came pretty damn close to sighting the free market as a good thing (I feel so dirty...), the second question relied greatly on municipal control, and a regulated and intergrated transport and development system.

Good times. Answered two questions in 22 pages.

Now to study for my second exam on Tuesday. I'll be hanging out for a beer come Tuesday afternoon...

Friday, October 29, 2004

Student Computing Services

The following is a discussion document on Victoria University Student Computing Services, for a meeting I have with the SCS management on Monday morning.

I welceome any comments.


Student Computing Services

From: Jeremy Greenbrook
VUWSA Vice President (Education), 2005 President Elect

To: Warwick Clegg – PVC (IT), VUW
John Greenwood - Director of ITS, VUW
Craig Williams – Director of SCS, VUW

Cc: Jenny Harper – AVC (Academic), VUW
VUWSA Executive and relevant staff


Over the past six months the number of complaints received by VUWSA regarding SCS has escalated. While these complaints cover services ranging from the Student “H” drives, e-mail, to the basics of accessing student “roving profile”, the overarching issue is reliability.

Recently, student’s were emailed regarding a survey for the implementation of a wireless access network (“WiFi”) for the Rankin Brown (Central Library) Building. Also, a cosmetic upgrade of the StudentVUW portal has been undertaken, providing minimal additional benefit for the end-user (students).

The general feeling is that the priorities of the Student Computing Services are aimed at new initiatives, while the basic computing services are substandard.

VUWSA and the office of the PVC (IT) have traditionally had a very strong and constructive working relationship, resulting in consistent student representation and consultation on student computing issues. The purpose of this discussion paper is to outline the real issues student’s have, with the goal of using this strong relationship to implement noticeable improvements to the service SCS provide before the beginning of the 2005 academic year.


Computing services are an integral tool in studying in the 21st century. This is either as a direct part of study (such as design packages, or geographic information systems), or indirect part (such as word-processing, email communication, research databases, or flexible learning). Either way, a student without access to reliable computing resources is at a significant disadvantage, sometimes rendering their study impossible.

While personal computer ownership amongst students is increasing, a large proportion of students still depend on on-campus computing facilities. As VUW further explores flexible learning, these students are going to become more reliant on these resources.

The current situation sees most SCS computers in use during university hours. While a shortage of computers is a cause for concern (something that must be addressed in the medium term), the initial problem stems from the inadequacy of the current computing mainframe to handle the number of users and the volume of information flowing through the portals.

This results in a virtual standstill (or collapse) of the system, rending the service useless. Access to “H” drives (where many students’ store their school work) is varied, with internet access slowing down to an unusable state (this often includes student email access). This is becoming more of an issue, as students are required to submit a digital copy of their work for plagiarism checks. Lecturers have discretion as to weather extensions are granted, often declining extensions based on computer problems.

This service pales in comparison with other universities:
· At the University of Canterbury, profiles (including roaming drives) are supported by a stable platform. Service outages are rare, and are normally caused by viruses or service upgrades.
· At the University of Otago, profiles are fully accessible, both on and off campus. The platform is stable, and upgraded on a bi-yearly basis. Service is currently being upgraded to provide all students with gigabit speed to desktops over the next 18 months.


Coupled with reliability, is the issue of support. With a system that is constantly failing, students regularly seek support and assistance from the SCS Helpdesk. This is of little assistance to many students.

The Student Computing Services Service Catalogue states that undergraduate student computing issues are to be resolved within 5 working days. With pressure on students’ time (such as work commitments), being without access to computers for a week is unacceptable, and would like to see student’s given a similar level of priority to postgraduate and staff users. This was clearly demonstrated when the entire student “H” drive access collapsed, and had to be retrieved from backup files over a period of a week. Such relaxed targets mean that helpdesk staff are regularly fixing problems in inappropriate timeframes (while still meeting targets), causing an acceptable delay for students.

SCS Support staff are often unable to provide specific assistance to student queries, and many student queries simply fall into a black hole and are never answered. This is also unacceptable. All staff must be trained on the full SCS software and hardware issues. Also, a system of tracking student problems (similar to what ITS does for staff concerns) would ensure requests are acted upon promptly.

Once again, this service pales in comparison with other universities:
· At the University of Canterbury, fully trained staff are accessible during the hours that the university is open, and are able to fix immediate problems almost instantly. A 1 to 2 day turn around for student problems is expected.
· At the University of Otago, staff wonder computer labs and the library, providing assistance where needed.

Other issues

· Cost

Current internet charges are:

Victoria Canterbury Otago
Domestic 15c / MB 0.5c / MB $47 sundry fee
International 15c / MB 5c / MB $47 sundry fee

Students are obviously being used to make a profit, while very little of this profit is put back into student services. Student internet access should be charged at cost, or, with any profit made being put into upgrading the service. Access to article databases (which VUW subscribes to) must be free for the purposes of student research.

· Support for Clubs

Many VUWSA affiliated clubs use email addresses. To set one of these up, they used to fill out a form with an attached affiliation letter from the VUWSA Clubs Development Officer (CDO)and take it to an SCS helpdesk (with ID) and the account was set up within a week. This process can take up to 4 months to create email accounts. VUWSA staff met with SCS Manager, but little has changed.

Now the only way for accounts to be created is for the CDO to send an email request that takes about 4 weeks. The difficulty with this is that once again the CDO acts as an unnecessary middleman that creates problems when the CDO is busy or away. It also creates more paperwork and enquiries with the CDO who should be working on 'development' not 'services'.

Suggestions - ITS updates the form so that it suits their needs for clubs that wish to open an account, CDO check this. Clubs affiliation letter is recognized and accepted as proof of the clubs status. Club accounts are set up within 2 weeks of the request. Club accounts rollover each year but maybe a renewal form is requested in October each year to update signatories?

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Wilson's World

I have discovered the blog of a mate of mine, Tony Wilson. Tony is a regular writter for Craccum at Auckland University, and understands the US Elections better than I could ever dream. I suggest you check out his blog.

Blog Lite

Apologies to those few people who read my blog - I am currently studying for exams, and therefore, have not had time to write anything on my blog.

My final exam (EVER!!) is 9:30 Tuesday.

Cheers, Jeremy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

New Blog

Bloggreen talks about procrastination. Well, I also have exams, so I decided to re-do my blog.

I've lost the debt counter because it caused to many problems.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The US Presidential Elections from a Distance #3

I stand corrected: They're predicting Kerry to take Florida. Am I to take it that the entire Florida government has just died? Or is the Michael Moore-take on Florida in 2000 more than a little exaggerated?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The US Presidential Elections from a Distance #2

OK, so I said a few days ago that I wasn't excited about the US Presidential Elections. Truth be known, I am. Very excited. Why I hear you ask? Well, I discovered Current Electoral Vote Predictor, and I tried to study for my exams.

My office is Cotton 106. From my desk I have a nice view across the little quad and trees to the McLauren lecture theatres (being on the ground floor, I can't actually see across any buildings). I can sit at my desk and watch classes go in and out. Boring? Hell no! Well, at least not in comparison to what I have to study.

So, every hour or so, I go to the computer room, and check my email. There's normally another random email there from one of the 31 yahoogroups I belong to, or a press release from parliament, or something similar. Never anything serious. And then someone emailed me the link to the Electoral Vote Predictor. Well, my life changed.

It seems as though, once again, it is all going to come down to Florida. Isn't that a kicker? So, for the next few months, some unlucky bastard will end up counting chads.

Current predictions have Kerry on 257 and Bush on 247. Kerry will take New Mexico (4) and Iowa (7), putting him on 268, and Bush will hold Ohio (20), and will take Florida (27), giving him 274.

Mark my words: Bush - 274, Kerry 268.

Here's a shout out to Susie in Southern California who quoted me on her blog. Simple things for simple minds, I guess...

Sunday, October 17, 2004

HTML Issues

My blog is now centered. I guess this is alright, but it wasn't intentional.

Is it at this point that I admit I know nothing about HTML?

If you can help me, please flick me an email.

Cheers, Jeremy.

The US Presidential Elections from a Distance

I love politics. Ever since I won the STV election for the 3KC class rep on the Kaipara College student council in 1995, I have had a passion for politics.

However, I find it very difficult to get excited over the upcoming US Presidential Elections. Both candidates are as un-charismatic as each other. Both have cookie-cutter similar politics. Both are from a wealthy background. It is little wonder no one in America votes.

I went through and added a few links to my blog the other day, and considered linking the Kerry-Edwards campaign site. This is due to a basic dislike for Bush, rather than any form of support of Kerry. To be perfectly honest, they're both as bad as each other. Kerry voted for the war in Iraq, and is opposed to same-sex marriage. If I was an American, I would probably not vote, or vote for Nader.

I'm a progressive, left voter. The Democrats are (roughly) the equivalent to the New Zealand Labour Party. I should support the Democrats, but, I just can't bring myself to it. I guess the one thing Bush does have going for him is that he is at least (reasonably) open as to who he is working for, rather than claiming to be a bastion of the the people etc, etc, etc, and then supporting tax cuts for the rich. How on earth can a political party, which is supposed to be left wing, over look candidates such as Howard Dean, or even Kerry's running mate, John Edwards, in favour of John Kerry? It simply doesn't add up.

What happened to the old days of Democrat Presidents like Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson? Franklin Roosevelt achieved more for the American people in 100 days than the last four US Presidents did in 20 years (that includes Clinton's 8 years in office). Despite being a fabrication of Hollywood, Jeb Bartlett is more in touch with the average American than any prospective Democrat Presidential candidate. OK, so his foreign policies weren't so crash hot (IE: Vietnam), but Johnson was the last US President to make any real gains on welfare security - and he's been dead since 1972!!

If you are in the same boat as me, I suggest you visit The Onion's Election Guide. Outrageous!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Procrastination and Other Useless Activities

This time last week, I was in front of my computer analyzing the local body election results. Once again, I am going to be spending Saturday night doing work. This week it's the 40-odd GEOG 114 essays that I have to mark.

Of course, as soon as I log onto the internet (I still use dial up) I have to have a look at all the blogs. Anyway, I found this on David Farrar's blog, and I thought, why not? What better way to procrastinate? So, here goes:

* First job: Picking Sweetcorn
* First screen name: Holden_C (as in Craufield in Catcher in the Rye)
* First funeral: Grandmother
* First pet: Sarah the lamb (I grew up on a farm, ok?)
* First piercing: None
* First tattoo: None
* First credit card: National Bank Visa
* First kiss: Alice, on the side of Lucas Creak in Whenuapai
* First enemy: I've had lots of enermies, but I don't really know them by name...

* Last car ride: Taxi yesterday
* Last kiss: 3 weeks ago
* Last movie watched: Fahrenheit 9/11
* Last beverage drank: Speights last night
* Last food consumed: Fish and chips for lunch
* Last phone call: To Phoebe, my girlfriend
* Last time showered: last night
* Last CD played: In Time, the Best of REM
* Last website visited: John Kerry for President

* Single or taken: taken
* Gender: Male
* Birthday: July 5
* Sign: Cancer
* Siblings: Sally
* Hair color: Red
* Eye color: Blue
* Shoe size: 13
* Height: 6' 2''
* Wearing: Trackies, rugby jersey
* Drinking: Mountain Dew
* Thinking about: Marking essays
* Listening to: 3 News

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

It's Democracy Kerry (But Not As We Know It)

I learnt today that is an issue with some 1,800 votes the WCC elections. (insert pun about Florida here) Oh the humanity. I appears that there was a problem with the vote counting system - they didn't know whether it was a partial chad, hanging chad, or complete chad I guess...

Alright, enough with the Florida analogy. As much as I disagree with the results of the WCC election, and as much as I would have liked to see Kerry go down, I never really expected it to happen. The guy I voted for came second to last.

But I do have a few questions about STV. I thought I understood it. I followed David Farrer's advice, and ranked all candidates, because what he said seemed to make sense. But I am still not sure about the system.

The WCC website says that Brian Pepperial is undecided. I assume that was because when Kerry got a majority (as you need to do under STV), Pep was the only candidate left? All the other candidates had been dropped, yes? If that was the case, it was bloody close.

Are the final figures going to be published, like they are in every other city? In the style of a National Party Question in the House, if not, why not?

I still think the final word has to go to Nick Kelly, who raked together 585 in the People's Republic of Upper Hutt. God bless you Nick, you're a good man, and you'll make a great ACT MP one day!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Local Body Politics

Well, the campaigns are over and the votes have been cast. My vote (which was 'special' because I was deleted from the role) was an absolute mission - I'm sure countries have been over thrown with less trouble. I have had my head buried in books for the past week, so have really missed the final week of campaigning.

There are no results in Wellington City, but I imagine Kerry Prendagast and most of the same councilors will be re-elected.

Heading North, John Terris was beaten in Lower Hutt by Ouy City, Our Future candidate David Ogden. I know very little about Lower Hutt politics, other than Terris is rather conservative. I don't know what Ogden will be like, so I'm not going to pass judgment here.

VUWSA Vice President (Welfare) Nick Kelly was seriously defeated by sitting mayor Wayne Guppy in Upper Hutt. No real suprises there.

Now, my old stomping ground; Dick Hubbard was elected mayor of Auckland City by a comfortable 17,000 vote majority. While I hate John Banks, I can't say I have a huge amount of confidence in Dick Hubbard. But it was pleasing to hear Christine Fletcher say that she will not be contesting another election. Kate Sutton (President of the Auckland University Students' Association) was highest polling candidate for the Tamaki Community Board (whatever the hell they do).

Bob Harvey was re-elected mayor of Waitakere City, comfortably beating off Vanessa Neeson (who I think may be wife of former Waitakere MP Brian Neeson, but don't quote me on that).

And, finally, Rodney District - my home: Sitting mayor, and private school owner, John Law came very close to being beaten, with only a few hundred votes in it. Chair of the Helensville Businessman's Association, Grev Walker was elected to the Western Ward.
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